Back to the Roots

The main impetus for Doogan and I to start this blog was the fact that we both found ourselves writing emails back and forth with our friends and each other about current events in the sports world and how they relate to the Philadelphia sports teams and the general sporting landscape.  We found ourselves often exchanging decent-sized emails and then sending them off to various people for their own opinions.  Well, we decided that, instead of keeping that dialogue between us and those whom we happen to add to the CC line, the discourse would be greatly improved if we opened it up to all of our friends and family, as well as anyone who might stumble upon  

Personally, I am pretty happy with our ability to keep a friend-to-friend (or, cousin-to-cousin, in our case) feel to the site, so I don’t feel like we have recapture our mission or anything, but I got an email the other day from a friend of mine (and highly valued follower of the site) asking my opinion on a couple Phillies-related questions.  It was so reminiscent of the impetus for BSB’s creation (not to mention the fact that they are very well-thought-out and thought-provoking questions) that I decided to answer the questions, well, in this post.

1). So Halladay has been all he was advertised to be, and everyone is very excited–rightfully so–but I don’t understand why people (fans and media, mostly) say that the Phillies are a better team this year than they were last year and picking them to win the World Series.  I just don’t see how they are improved at all, from a World Series perspective.  Cliff Lee won both of his [World Series] starts.  We can assume Halladay will win both of his [World Series] starts if they get back there.  The rest of the starters are the same, right?  Are we expecting Cole Hamels to come around to who he was in ’08?  Lidge?  I mean I hope they do, but until they start showing it, I don’t see how they are better-equipped to win the World Series this year than they were last year.

This is a very insightful and complex questions, with many different levels to it.  Let me see if I can give some opinions that may work as proxies for actually answering the question here.

  • Yes, it’s hard to argue that Halladay (or anyone) will perform better than Lee did in the playoffs last year, so your argument that it is a wash is pretty solid.  But, Halladay is much better than Lee, and I’ll see if I can explain why I think that
    • First of all, it would be crazy to think that even Cliff Lee will be as good as Cliff Lee was last year.  It’s hard to imagine that he gives you what he did last year.  In fact, I think that Halladay has a much better chance of throwing a complete-game shutout in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium in 2010 than Lee does, even though Lee did it last year.  Not sure if that makes sense, but Halladay is a more consistently dominating pitcher, so you can more safely anticipate dominance from him than you can from Lee.
    • One thing you said was “Lee won both of his starts…we can assume Halladay will win both of his starts.”  The key word in that quote is BOTH.  Cliff Lee has never in his life pitched on three days’ rest, so the Phils were apprehensive to do it last year.  Whether you agree with the decision or not, there is no way of knowing if Lee could have won Games 1, 4, and 7.  Halladay, on the other hand, is a workhorse, who would most likely relish the chance to pitch on three days’ rest in the World Series.  Though you got two wins from Lee last year, you might get THREE from Halladay.
    • Cliff Lee only threw 7 innings in Game 5.  Yes, this is incredibly nit-picky because he “only” threw 7 innings in a World Series victory.  But, I think you can more likely expect Halladay to throw 8 or 9 than you can with Cliff Lee.  The Phils did have to use Chan-Ho Park and Ryan Madsen in Game 5 to close out Lee’s victory.  Granted there was an off-day in between, but they were both needed again in Game 6.  Halladay’s effect on a bullpen (over the course of the season, let alone single playoff series) is enormous.
  • The second point is your mentioning of Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge and can we expect them to be any better than last year.  Well, I hate it when people answer questions like this, but…can they be any worse?  Brad Lidge was absolutely abysmal last year.  I have heard talk that it may have been the worst season for a closer in the history of baseball.  Cole Hamels was also pretty bad in the postseason last year.  I think it is safe to say that any real contribution is an upgrade from what they gave the Phillies last year.  So, to answer your question–chances are, yes, they will both be better because they clearly have the ability and were both gawd-awful last year.
  • All your questions revolve around pitching, which I really like to see from a developing baseball fan.  Yes, this game completely revolves around pitching, but it’s not quite everything.  This offense is better than it was last year.  Placido Polanco is a huge upgrade over Pedro Feliz.  Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are becoming even BETTER hitters than they were just last year.  Plus, the bench seems a good bit better than last year.  Castro is definitely an upgrade over Bruntlett, Schneider is an upgrade over Bako, and Ross Gload is probably an upgrade over an aging (but AWESOME) Matt Stairs.  So, if you throw in a healthy J-Roll (who was hitting MUCH better than he did last year), I think you’ve got a certifiably better offense this year.
  • So, all in all, I think that this team is definitively better than the ’09 version.  Does that mean they will win the World Series?  Not necessarily.  It doesn’t even mean that they will win another pennant or even a single playoff series because baseball is a sport best played over the course of a marathon 162-game schedule.  Anything can happen in short series.  But, would I take the ’10 Phillies to beat the ’09 Phillies?  Yes.  Would I take them to beat the ’08 Phillies?  Definitely–and that team won the whole thing.

2). Did Howard change his approach at the plate to beat the shift and/or not strike out as much?  Although I’m sure this will make him a MUCH better overall hitter, will his dinger total suffer?

This is a very interesting question.  I think Howard changed his overall approach at the plate for a couple reasons.  One, I think he definitely wanted to strike out less, but two, I think he just wanted to be an overall better hitter–hit for a higher average, draw more walks, etc.  Personally, I think it’s fantastic……..IF it doesn’t really affect his power.  And, I think it won’t.  I have seen a lot of baseball players in my day, and I think I can honestly say that I have never seen a better “mistake” hitter than Howard.  If you make a mistake to the guy, you can pretty much guarantee that you just gave up a home run.  I’ve guys who would crush mistakes (Bonds, Pujols, Pete Incaviglia come to mind), but no one who would crush every mistake.  And, honestly, I don’t think that his new approach will lessen his ability to absolutely destroy a bad pitch in the zone.  In fact, I think that it might actually help him because, if he starts to show more discipline at the plate, he will start to get into more “hitter’s counts,” and these are the times when many more mistake pitches come.  So, while his raw home run numbers might not increase because he’s not going after first-pitch fastballs and he’s taking that pitch down-and-away up the middle for a single, I think he will be a better power hitter than he ever has been.  So, no, I don’t think his dingers will suffer, in the long-run.  I think he can make himself into a more compete hitter without losing that ability to just destroy the mistakes.


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